Successful full time studios are no longer a rare commodity in Australia, but Anthony Ikin and Zac Brazenas have teamed up to offer their students something different. Their deep understanding of the industry and what dancers really want from their training led them to found Global Dance Pro and its signature LA Concierge Experience. Offering three terms on the gold coast and a fourth term in LA, this is a course like no other in Australia. We spoke to Ikin about the evolution of Global Dance Pro, his unique approach to full time training and why this course is a game changer for dancers seeking an edge in the industry.
Ikin’s dance journey began at 17. After training in elite gymnastics from a young age and becoming a world champion in sports aerobics, a chance comment from a competition judge prompted him to try dance. “They said, ‘You need more fluidity in your movement; go get some dance classes.’” Ikin explains. “I went to Robert Sturrock, he was a phenomenal dance teacher on the Gold Coast, and he was just amazing. I was very lucky to have gone straight to him. He has trained some of the best dancers — Kate Wormald, Shannon Holtzapffel, Michelle Hopper. So many successful dancers have come from his training. I had all the tricks, and the kicks, and the flexibility and everything like that, but I really was a complete plank of wood. So I just spent a couple of years dancing, and I loved it so much that I went over to LA and started training there. I was one of the rare dancers getting booked because of my gymnastics and aerobics tricks. I was working with commercial artists, then I got a musical, then all of a sudden I was moving to Paris to dance with the Moulin Rouge, and as soon as I got back they were auditioning for So You Think You Can Dance. I got on the first season of SYTYCD Australia, so it just went from one thing to the next and looking back, it’s just been the most full on career. I just went with the flow and said yes to everything, and the next minute I’m here!”
Ikin has indeed had an amazing dance career, alongside which he ran his own studio, Ikin Dance, for 17 years. “I sold the studio last year to really good friends of mine, but my passion within the business was always the full time course,” Ikin explains. “When I started it, there was only two full time courses in Queensland, and over the last 10 years, it’s become such a saturated market. I don’t want that to be negative because it’s not; all the courses are so amazing, but I thought I need to do something different because we’re all offering the same thing, and we’re all great! I went back to the drawing board to look for a gap in the market, and I thought about how I did a lot of my training in LA. LA is really the leading dance hub of the world, and I started to speak to different industry people and the idea evolved from there.”
Ikin teamed up with his close friend, Zac Brazenas, who also trained under Sturrock, to turn his ideas into reality. “Zac has just killed it in America,” notes Ikin. “He’s danced for J-Lo, Britney Spears, Celine Dion, Katy Perry; he’s just had the most successful career as an Aussie dancer over there, so I thought I’m going to speak to him and see if he wants to come on board. It just worked perfectly; he was looking for something else to add to his career. He said yes; we became co-course directors and launched Global Dance Pro.”
The course, which is currently in its first year, offers Term 1, 2 and 3 out of their Gold Coast studio, and then the real draw card, a fourth term in Los Angeles.
“We are so excited to have this amazing LA stint at the end of the year of training,” says Ikin. “It wasn’t easy to pull it all together, but I’ve been able to make it at a really reasonable price point, and the kids get their flights and accommodation and class prices covered. It was a lot of hustling to get all these deals happening, but it’s something really different and it’s being received really well. It’s that point of difference, it’s attracting people who want that LA edge, and those are the dancers we want to train because it’s that same love that Zac and I have.” he explains.
Ikin goes on, “During the time we are in LA, the students do 50 classes, and we also pick a choreographer who works with them in the lead up to the Choreographer’s Carnival, and they get their own performance piece at the show. The experience of performing at an event like that on stage in LA, they’ll just treasure that forever. My favourite show ever was at Carnival; I still remember it was my favourite piece I’ve ever been in choreographically, creatively. And to think all these years later this course gives students that opportunity, I just think it’s so beneficial for them.”
Organising logistics for the overseas component of the course must be challenging, but Ikin takes it in his stride. “Having Zac on board has been such a big help because he’s got the connections having been there for so many years,” he admits. “We’ve got the dancing between the three big studios there, which is EDGE Performing Arts Center, Millennium Dance Complex and Playground LA. And to add to the workload for us, we give every student what we call the Concierge LA Experience. They each get their own timetable for LA, based on their strengths and weaknesses. So everyone’s timetable is different; they’re all doing different versions of the classes. Zac and I design it specifically for them.”
Global Dance Pro offers their students an authentic LA experience. “Zac and I take them rollerblading on Santa Monica and Venice Beach, hiking the best hikes in LA, really great shopping trips, the big department stores and the weather there is so great,” Ikin describes. “But the main thing is the energy in the classes. It can be quite daunting when you first get there because the standard is so high, but if you go there with that expectation of not needing to be selected for the video and not needing to be the best in the room, experiencing the vibe and working off other people’s brilliance and trying to better yourself, if you go with that headspace you have the best time. I can see such a shift in the dancers after that experience.”
Ikin is also excited that during the Australian portion of the course, students work to achieve their Certificate IV in dance. “Whilst they’re doing their first three terms, we qualify them,” he explains, “and it’s a great certificate to have in your resume. Even for employment even in other industries, it shows you’ve committed to a course, because it’s not an easy thing to get. I also think it’s great to have for all areas of dance, to go out and start teaching in studios, or throw your hat in the event management ring, or starting TAFE or University, for future credits.”
Ikin’s experience with running Certificate IV qualifications also led him to develop Global Dance Pro’s new online course. “I was getting booked for a lot of regional workshops, and it just dawned on me that the certificate opportunities just weren’t available in those areas,” Ikin recalls. “Having been through the process myself of what it takes to set it up, it’s a daunting and expensive task. I just wondered if there was a way in which I can make this available to those people, and the more questions I was asking, the more it became evident that it was definitely possible. So using my team of amazing qualified teachers, I made the course via an online and video platform. It’s readily available to studios and individuals who want to get the qualification and can’t necessarily get to the studios where it’s being offered. And it’s been really successful so far. I only launched it in the first quarter of this year, and I’m getting flooded with enquiries all the time. Studios can take it on and have a group of kids doing it, and it takes away the studio owner having the stress of being a provider. This platform makes it easier, more accessible and more affordable.”
Students wishing to complete their Certificate IV online must be 15 years old and show a Certificate III level of competence. “We get them to do a basic audition video,” explains Ikin. “Nothing too long or too complicated; they just need to send us a couple of combinations.”
For the LA Concierge course, the audition process is more involved. “We usually do one-on-one auditions in person,” notes Ikin. “We have people interstate or overseas who aren’t readily available to fly to the Gold Coast, so we do accept video submissions. But we like to audition one-on-one because it makes it really personal, and we want the students to get a great vibe off the team and what Global Dance Pro is all about. We do our very best to make sure we have the right mindsets in the group. Being motivated and driven and wanting to succeed is important to us. My ideal is a varying group of talents across different styles. I don’t want just freakishly good ballet dancers in there; I love having raw hip hop dancers in there, Latin, ballroom, break dancing, jazz. I love having a room of different talents. That’s the best group, when everyone can learn from everyone else’s talents and grow together over the year.”
It’s clear that what Global Dance Pro is offering is unique, and with the buzz around the LA dance scene, it’s certainly giving the students what they want. But there’s more to the course than just a trip overseas. “The LA component is our main point of difference now. But one of the things I really love about our offering is that Zac and I are really hands-on mentors. We’ve both lived it, breathed it, loved it, hated it, been successful, been unsuccessful; so we pride ourselves on being a phone call away for the students for whatever they’re going through,” he says. “They’ve got great teachers, but just that level of mentorship we provide individually is something I’m really proud of. It’s a really family vibe, and there’s no toxicity within the group. We are positive and inspiring, and we have to show that from the top. That’s just how Zac and I go about our work.”
For more information on Global Dance Pro and the courses available, visit www.globaldancepro.com.
By Emily Newton-Smith of Dance Informa.